Here are 6 great points I recently came across, summarizing Peter Drucker on what makes knowledge work different from (and more challenging than) manual work:
- “Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?”
- It demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy.
- Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of knowledge workers.
- Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the knowledge worker.
- Productivity of the knowledge worker is not – at least not primarily – a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least as important.
- Finally, knowledge worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both seen and treated as an ‘asset’ rather than a ‘cost’. It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.”
Here’s the key point, and the key challenge: Knowledge workers must manage themselves. The manager can only be a source of help, not a boss.
This creates an incredible opportunity and challenge for us as knowledge workers. The challenge is that it means that we need to know how to manage ourselves now more than ever, which does not necessarily come naturally (which is one reason I wrote my book). But the opportunity is that knowledge work by definition presents a great opportunity to unleash your creativity and innovation and unique interests.
This also presents a challenge for organizations, however. Many organizations that consist of knowledge workers still manage their people as if they are doing manual work. This is why you still see tightly controlled leadership and management practices.
The news flash is that these approaches kill knowledge work. Organizations cannot take their management cues from how management was done in the industrial era (I’m not saying even manual work should have been managed in that way, but it’s even worse with knowledge work). Every organization needs to be built on the recognition that their people, especially their knowledge workers (which is most of the workforce today), must be given ownership in their tasks and be allowed to manage themselves.
(By the way, if you are reading this blog, you are a knowledge worker; also, even if your “paid” job consists in manual work, we are all knowledge workers in our personal and home lives.)
Peter Drucker gets this right:
“The young knowledge worker whose job is too small to challenge and test his abilities either leaves or declines rapidly into premature middle-age soured, cynical, unproductive.
Executives everywhere complain that many young men with fire in their bellies turn so soon into burned-out sticks. They have only themselves to blame: they quenched the fire by making the young man’s job too small.”
In other words, you burn people out mainly by giving them too little, not mainly by giving them too much.
If you treat your employees simply as tools — that is, simply as interchangeable parts who are there to do what you tell them rather than to take initiative and ownership of their job — you are are not just being an ineffective manager. You are harming your employees (as all bad management ultimately does).
I recently thumbed through Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book a bit while I was at Kinko’s printing off a large document. I didn’t read a ton, and there are many helpful things in there, to be sure. Further, Dave Ramsey has a very good ministry and is doing a great service.
But here’s something that doesn’t resonate with me. Quite often he would exhort people to save money and avoid debt by appealing to the fact that millionaires are frugal and avoid debt. “Millionaires don’t drive new cars — that’s how they became millionaires.”
The problem is that I don’t want to be a millionaire. That whole concept feels empty to me — “live like no one else now so you can live like no one else then.” I’m just not interested in that. I don’t want to make financially conservative decisions in order to build my own wealth.
What I’m interested in is helping people, seeking to do good, seeking to share, and being “hazardously liberal,” to use a phrase from John Piper, in serving others. Frugality put in the service of generosity — that’s a decent aim.
I’m sure Dave Ramsey would agree. When he refers to millionaires, he isn’t advocating that we should want to be one, but probably appealing to the fact that many people do. He’s not saying it’s good; he’s just acknowledging a desire many in society have, and appealing to it without approving it.
Still, I think it would be better to make clear that the aim in frugality (which I’m not convinced is a biblical virtue) is to serve others. That’s not only a more exciting life; it also keeps us from the trap of superficial frugality where we sacrifice the good of others in the name of financially conservative efficiency.
Good words from Marcus Buckingham. Completely right:
Criticism has the power to do good when there is something that must be destroyed, dissolved or reduced, but it is capable only of harm when there is something to be built.
Here’s one application of this: If an employee (or family member!) comes to you with an idea, you don’t first ask yourself “what’s wrong with this?” You first focus on what’s right.
Even when there is something to be dissolved, criticism still has dangers. For example, in his book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters talks about how studies showed that if employees in a call center were criticized on how they handled customers, the result was not better customer service. Rather, the employees sought to avoid customers (that, is their job!) altogether.
The point: criticism typically creates unpredictable and strange behavior. It rarely does good, and frequently backfires and undoes the very thing that ought to have been built up.
This is especially worth remembering if you have the “gift of criticism.” If you have that talent, go, bury it right now, as fast as you can. That’s one gift the Lord does not want you to steward for his glory.
When you read carefully, you see how this applies. From Charity and Its Fruits:
And they, also, are of a spirit and practice the very opposite of a spirit of love, who show an exorbitantly grasping and avaricious spirit, and who take every opportunity to get all they possibly can from their neighbors in their dealings with them, asking them more for for what they do for or sell to them than it is truly worth, and extorting to the utmost from them by unreasonable demands: having no regard to the value of the thing to their neighbor, but, as it were, forcing out of him all they can get for it.
And they who do these things are generally very selfish also in buying from their neighbors, grinding and pinching them down to the lowest prices, and being very backward to give what the thing purchased is really worth. Such a spirit and practice are the very opposite of a Christian spirit, and are severely reproved by the great law of love, viz., that we do to others as we would have them do to us.
In other words, “think win win” is not a modern invention. As Edwards points out, even in our commercial and business dealings, Christians are to have a view to the good of the other person. We are not to simply seek our own benefit, but are to have regard to what will be good for the other as well.
This is not anti-capitalistic, either. One of the best recent books on negotiation, Getting to Yes, makes the case that this is actually the most effective form of negotiation. It’s called thinking win-win, and it’s not only the most effective long-term (since people don’t like doing business with those that are always pinching them down to the lowest possible amount), nor only the most decent way of treating others; it’s also very Christian.
Christians seek the good of others–not just in their personal lives (what does that even mean, anyway?), but in all realms of life, at all times.
When I was first learning about God’s sovereignty 15 or so years ago, every book I read made sure to emphasize the point that God’s control over all things is not an excuse for inaction. When we see someone in need, for example, we are to not EVER to say “that’s God’s will, so I’m not going to help.”
The fact that God is sovereign, including over sin and evil, does not make sin less sinful or evil less evil. God has “two wills”–his will of decree and his will of command. His will of command is what he loves in and of itself, and commands us to do: love him, love others, do good to all. His will of decree is what he ordains will happen in the world. Since we are in a fallen world, sometimes (often) his will of decree is that sin and evil happen. His will of decree, in other words, is sometimes different from his will of command.
But our duty is always spelled out by God’s will of command, never his will of decree. God’s will of decree belongs to the “secret things” that are not made known to us (Deuteronomy 29:29). Hence, the fact that a person is suffering does not mean we are to let them suffer because “God is willing it.” Rather, while God, for good and righteous reasons, has indeed allowed the suffering, his command to us (that is, his will) is that we fight the suffering and help. In doing so, we are not “working against God,” because God is behind good and evil differently. God actively causes good, but permissively (yet purposefully) allows evil.
So, even though God is in control of all things, we are never to allow that to be a reason or excuse for not helping another in need or fighting evil with all our might. (Indeed, it’s God’s sovereignty which is our best cause for hope.)
I’ve always taken that as basic, foundational, essential, and non-negotiable.
However, I’ve recently seen some people apparently have a different view. I’ve seen some people not help others in need who seemed to be basing this in the notion that “the Christian life is hard” and “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” and that God ordains suffering for his children.
That application is an abuse of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I’m sure most Christians, or hopefully almost every Christian, knows this. And, those who refused to help may have not been clearly communicating. But, seeing that was enough to point out to me that we can’t take it for granted that everyone knows this. And, regardless, we all need to be reminded of it.
So, briefly, let me point out two texts. First, notice how in Matthew 7:13 Jesus outright says that the Christian life is super hard: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Likewise, Paul and Barnabas stated clearly that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
So, what are we to do when we encounter a Christian who is suffering or in need? Do we say to him “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” and move on? No. That is an important truth that we do need to remind one another of. But the rule of the gospel is that whenever we see a brother or sister in any need and we are in a position where we are able to help, we must help. This is the point of Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” As Edwards has said on this passage, “when we see our brother or sister under any difficulty or burden, we should be ready to bear the burden with him.”
This also comes right from Jesus’ own teaching, for he commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). How do we love ourselves when we are suffering? Do we say “well, it’s good for me, so I’m not going to do anything about it.” Not in the slightest. When we are hungry, we get something to eat; when we are thirsty, we get something to drink; when we are under any burden or difficulty, we seek to resolve it. That’s how we love ourselves. And that’s how we are to love others.
And the sovereignty of God does nothing to change that in the slightest. Rather, it is instead the very thing that gives us hope that our efforts to serve others will actually help in the end.
Jonathan Edwards, in Charity and Its Fruits:
Especially will the spirit of Christian love dispose those that stand in a public capacity, such as that of ministers, and magistrates, and all public officers, to seek the public good.
It will dispose magistrates to act as the fathers of the commonwealth, with that care and concern for the public good which the father of a family has for his household. It will make them watchful against public dangers, and forward to use their powers for the promotion of the public benefit; not being governed by selfish motives in their administration; not seeking only, or mainly, to enrich themselves, or become great, and to advance themselves on the spoils of others, as wicked rulers very often do; but striving to act for the true welfare of all to whom their authority extends.
And the same spirit will dispose ministers not to seek their own, and endeavor to get all they can out of their people to enrich themselves and their families, but to seek the good of the flock over which the great Shepherd has placed them; to feed, and watch over them, and lead them to good pastures, and defend them from wolves and wild beasts that would devour them.
And so, whatever the post of honor or influence we may be placed in, we should show that, in it, we are solicitous for the good of the public, so that the world may be better for our living in it, and that, when we are gone, it may be said of us, as it was so nobly said of David (Acts 13:36), that we “served our generation by the will of God.”
Acts 6 shows us the legitimacy of delegation, even in the context of the church. Pastors can’t do everything, for example, and it is right to have a team of people that you delegate areas of responsibility to.
But Acts 6 also teaches us that mere delegation is not enough. You have to delegate to competent people that are actually capable of doing good. Note, for example, how the apostles were not careless in who they delegated the food distribution to. They delegated it to capable men, individuals of “good repute and full of the Holy Spirit.”
Now, listen. It’s easy to go wrong here and think that good character is enough. It’s not. The people you delegate to must have character and competence. To delegate to someone who has two hour devotions every day (which is not even, by itself, a mark of true Christian character) but doesn’t know how to serve well (or have the willingness to learn) is not right. It is, in fact, irresponsible.
I would in fact argue that true Christian character actually manifests itself in the desire and quest to become competent. Not everyone is a star right out of the gate, and we need to give people opportunities to learn and grow. But if someone has demonstrated incompetence over a sustained period of time along with the lack of desire, or inability, to learn how to carry out their function well (to those working under them just as much as those who work above them), continuing to delegate to them is irresponsible. It is not the model of Acts 6.
As Christians who care about loving and serving others, we care about truly helping people, and not merely making noble attempts. That means that it’s not enough to delegate to “someone.” We must delegate to able, competent, faithful individuals.
Let us, to this end [that is, of love], be willing to do, or give, or suffer, that we may do good alike to friends and enemies, to the evil and the good, to the thankful and the unthankful.
Let our benevolence and beneficence be universal, constant, free, habitual, and according to our opportunities and ability, for this is essential to true piety, and required by the commands of God.
This is an incredible statement. Note a few things.
First, we are to do good universally. That is, we are not to show partiality, but are to do good for those who have something to offer us and those that don’t, the “great” and the “small,” in biblical terms.
Second, this includes our enemies as well as our friends, those who appreciate what we do and those who don’t, those who are out to wreck the world as well as those who are out to change it.
Third, we are to do good constantly. Doing good is not to be a rare thing we do every few months. It is to be the steady employment of the Christian.
Fourth, we are to do good freely. That is, without thought of return, and from delight and a spirit of joy. We are not to act under constraint, but because we want to.
Fifth, we are to do good according to our opportunities and ability. Which means we are to maximize our opportunities and talents and resources for the good of others. We aren’t called to serve people with what we don’t have, but very often we can do far more than we think. Further, we are to even suffer in the way of doing good for others. In other words, if we construe the need to stay within our abilities and opportunities to mean “don’t sacrifice,” we’ve misunderstood.
Seventh, this is not optional. It is “essential to true piety.” We cannot say that we love God if we are not diligently and proactively and freely and habitually seeking to serve and do good for others. This is the mark of a Christian.
This is worth emphasizing, because it’s easy to fall into the trap of simply praying for others when we see them in need. When you have the ability to help, simply saying that you will pray but not actually helping is akin to saying “be warm and be filled” and then moving on (James 2:14-17). Further, prayer is not by itself a mark of a true relationship with God (Matthew 6:5-8). It is possible to be a person who prays all the time and yet doesn’t lift a finger to concretely, practically help others (Matthew 23:4-7). God is not impressed with such people. Prayer is essential and critical (Matthew 6:9-15), but without an active disposition to do good for others, it is not a mark of a true and living relationship with God.
So, in conclusion: this is not optional! Let us be universal, constant, free, joyful, habitual, proactive, and energetic in doing good for others, without restraint or discrimination, for the glory of God.